Sports Injuries

April 24, 2010

Many sports are hard on the feet because of quick repetitive movements, constricting footwear, and/or increased exposure to injury or trauma. Following is a brief overview of some of the most common injuries that result from particular sports.

Martial Arts and Kick Boxing
Injuries commonly seen as a result of martial arts and kick boxing include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, sesamoiditis, and ankle sprains. Stretching is recommended to help prevent injury; specifically, a minimum of 15 minutes of stretching before performing any kicking or punching.

Aerobics
Impact forces from aerobics can reach up to six times the force of gravity, which is transmitted to each of the 26 bones in the foot. That is why proper shoes are crucial to successful, injury-free aerobics. Shoes should provide sufficient cushioning and shock absorption to compensate for pressure on the foot many times greater than found in walking. They must also have good medial-lateral stability.

Team Sports
Activities such as football, baseball, basketball, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse often lead to ankle injuries as a result of play on artificial surfaces, improper footwear, and/or inadequate stretching.

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Shin Splints

April 24, 2010

Shin splints refer to pain on either side of the leg bone that is caused by muscle or tendon inflammation. The problem is usually related to a collapsing arch, but may be caused by a muscle imbalance between opposing muscle groups in the leg.

Proper stretching before and after exercise and sports, corrective shoes, or orthotics (corrective shoe inserts) can help prevent shin splints.

Osteochondromas

April 24, 2010

Osteochondromas are benign bone tumors that form in the bone beneath the toenail. Osteochrondromas account for about half of all benign bone tumors, and occur mostly in children and young adults. Unless they cause irritation to the surrounding tissue, they are generally not painful.

In some cases, osteochondromas may cause a deformity in the toenail or lead to an ingrown toenail. When problematic, osteochondromas may be removed surgically. However, they can recur after the procedure.

Osteochondritis are lesions that usually cause pain and stiffness of the ankle joint and affect all age groups. Osteochondritis is caused by a twisting-type injury to the ankle. Symptoms include swelling and ankle pain.

Immobilization of the foot and ankle for a period of time usually resolves the problem. In more severe cases, however, surgery may be prescribed. During the surgery, loose fragments of cartilage and bone are removed from the ankle joint and, in some cases, small drill holes are made in the defect to stimulate new blood vessels and help form scar tissue that will fill the defect.

Fractures

April 24, 2010

Nearly one-fourth of all the bones in your body are in your feet. A broken (fractured) bone in your forefoot or in one of your toes is often painful, but rarely disabling. Most of the time, these injuries heal without operative treatment.

There are two types of foot fractures: stress fractures and general bone fractures. Stress fractures usually occur in the bones of the forefoot extending from the toes to the middle of the foot. Stress fractures are like tiny cracks in the bone surface. They can happen with sudden increases in exercise (such as running or walking for longer distances or times), improper training techniques, or a change in surfaces.

Most other types of fractures extend through the bone, and are called bone fractures. They may be stable, in which there is no shift in bone alignment, or displaced, in which the bone ends no longer line up properly. Bone fractures usually result from trauma, such as dropping a heavy object on your foot, or from a twisting injury. If the fractured bone does not break through the skin, it is called a closed fracture. If the fracture does break through the skin, it is called an open fracture.

Because of the complex structures in the foot, there are some other, more specific types of fractures that can occur. For example, the fifth metatarsal, known as the little or pinky toe, is susceptible to a variety of different fractures. The relationship between the ankle and the foot can be compromised by an ankle-twisting injury, which may tear the tendon that attaches to this bone and pull a small piece of the bone away. A more serious injury in the same area is known as a Jones fracture, which occurs near the base of the bone and disrupts its blood supply. This injury may take longer to heal or require surgery.

Common symptoms for any type of foot fracture includes pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising. Be sure to seek medical attention for any suspected foot fracture.

Sesamoiditis

April 24, 2010

Sesamoids are small bones that are connected only to tendons or are embedded in muscle. This structure appears in only a few places in the human body, one of which is the foot. Two very small sesamoids (about the size of a kernel of corn) are found in the underside of the forefoot near the big toe—one on the outer side of the foot and the other closer to the middle of the foot. Sesamoids provide a smooth surface over which the tendons slide, thus increasing the ability of the tendons to transmit muscle forces. In the foot, sesamoids assist with weight-bearing and help elevate the bones of the big toe.

Like other bones, sesamoids can fracture. Additionally, the tendons surrounding the sesamoids can become irritated or inflamed, which is called sesamoiditis and is a form of tendonitis. Sesamoiditis is a common condition among ballet dancers, runners, and baseball catchers because of the pressures placed on their feet.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain under the big toe or on the ball of the foot.
  • Swelling and bruising.
  • Difficulty and pain in bending and straightening the big toe.

Surgery is usually not required to treat sesamoiditis. Treatments generally include:

  • Discontinuation of the activity causing the pain and inflammation.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications.
  • Icing the sole of the foot.
  • Wearing shoes that are soft-soled and low-heeled.
  • Using cushioning in shoes to relieve stress.
  • Injection of a steroidal medication to reduce swelling.

If symptoms persist, you may need to wear a removable brace on the leg for four-to-six weeks to give the inflammation time to subside and the bones to heal.

Plantar fibromas are benign tissue tumors or growths on the plantar, or bottom surface of the foot. Unlike plantar warts, which grow on the skin, these grow deep inside on a thick fibrous band of ligaments, called the plantar fascia. The presence of the tumor can cause pain or pressure on other parts of the foot structure that can lead to other foot problems.

Nonsurgical measures used in treating plantar fibromas often fail to provide adequate relief of symptoms. At the same time, surgical correction can lead to further complications, such as plantar nerve entrapment or larger and recurrent fibromas that may be worse than the original problem.

A relatively new procedure applies cryosurgery to freeze and shrink the tumors and is gaining in popularity. This short, outpatient treatment causes minimal to no postoperative pain or disability. Patients return to wearing regular shoes within 24 to 48 hours after cryosurgery.

Pain in the area between the arch and toes, or ball of the foot, is generally called metatarsalgia. The pain usually centers on one or more of the five bones (metatarsals) in this mid-portion of the foot. Also known as dropped metatarsal heads, metatarsalgia can cause abnormal weight distribution due to overpronation.

Metatarsalgia occurs when one of the metatarsal joints becomes painful or inflamed. People often develop a callus under the affected joint. Metatarsalgia also can be caused by arthritis, foot injury (from sports, a car accident, or repeated stress), hard surfaces (cement or tile floors), and specific footwear (rigid-soled work boots).

A simple change of shoes may solve the problem. In more severe cases, custom orthotics may be prescribed to alleviate the pain and prevent overpronation.

Broken Ankle

April 24, 2010

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, doctors have noticed an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles since the 1970s, due, in part, to the Baby Boomer generation being active throughout every stage of their lives.

The ankle has two joints, one on top of the other, and three bones. A broken ankle can involve one or more of the bones, as well as injury to the surrounding connecting tissues or ligaments.

There are a wide variety of causes for broken ankles, most commonly a fall, an automobile accident, or sports-related trauma. Because a severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a broken ankle, every ankle injury should be examined by a physician.

Symptoms of a broken ankle include:

  • Bruising.
  • Swelling.
  • Immediate and severe pain.
  • Inability to put any weight on the injured foot.
  • Tenderness to the touch.
  • Deformity, particularly if there is a dislocation or a fracture.

The treatment for a broken ankle usually involves a leg cast or brace if the fracture is stable. If the ligaments are also torn, or if the fracture created a loose fragment of bone that could irritate the joint, surgery may be required to secure the bones in place so they will heal properly.

Ankle Sprain Injury

April 24, 2010

Ankle sprains are caused by an unnatural twisting or force on the ankle bones of the foot, which may result in excessive stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle. The severity of the sprain can impact the degree of damage as well as the type and duration of treatment. If not properly treated, ankle sprains may develop into long-term problems.

Primary symptoms of ankle sprains are pain following a twist or injury, swelling, and bruising.

Treatment includes resting and elevating the ankle and applying ice to reduce swelling. Compressive bandages also may be used to immobilize and support the injury during healing. Serious ankle sprains, particularly among competitive athletes, may require surgery to repair and tighten the damaged ligaments.

To prevent ankle sprains, try to maintain strength, balance, and flexibility in the foot and ankle through exercise and stretching, and wearing well-fitted shoes.